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The Surprising Films That Inspired Marvel's Eternals

Marvel's hotly-anticipated "Eternals" has finally arrived, and it's safe to say this film is going to inspire a lot of discourse in the coming days. That's largely because "Eternals" isn't quite like anything the MCU has seen to date. The influence of newly-minted Best Director winner and overall indie film ingenue Chloé Zhao is a big part of that. But the story itself — about an ancient race of God-like alien beings who've been protecting and influencing events on Earth for thousands of years — is also wholly unique even in the Marvel canon.

That uniqueness may have something to do with the film's less-than-fresh critical rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Some viewers might be having trouble accepting the film in the context of the MCU at large, if only because the presence of the titular supers raises some very big questions, and may significantly alter the balance of MCU power. More than anything, folks who have seen "Eternals" would be quick to offer that the film simply doesn't look or feel like any of its MCU brethren — for better or worse.

According to "Eternals" co-writer Kaz Firpo, that's very much by design. During a recent spot on Deadline's Hero Nation Podcast, Firpo noted the film's writing team (including Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, and Ryan Firpo) indeed set out to make a different sort of Marvel movie. He said, "It's the most challenging Marvel movie and it's an honor to make something that feels different." They writers also revealed that they looked for inspiration in some unlikely places.

Eternals was influenced by classic Hollywood epics

In the same podcast interview, co-writer Ryan Firpo added that part of differentiating "Eternals" from the rest of the MCU offerings meant finding inspiration in classic films one wouldn't associate with the superhero realm. Specifically, Ryan Firpo claims the writing team took cues from a pair of old-school Hollywood epics. "Our inspiration points for this, we wanted to tell this epic story, and we're looking at movies like 'Lawrence of Arabia' or 'The English Patient.'"

Ryan Firpo goes on to explain that those Best Picture-winning films served as muse for "Eternals" because their emotional impact is as potent as their visual grandeur. "These movies that give this sense of scale and scope, both in sense of human emotion, but landscape and in setting." For those who have seen "Eternals" the visual influence of "Lawrence of Arabia" is more than apparent as Zhao and cinematographer Ben Davis similarly go for grand, yet naturalistic visuals in every frame of their film. And like "Lawrence of Arabia," they often utilized practical effects in building the film's bold visual palette, versus CGI (per CinemaBlend).

As for "The English Patient," the character-driven WWII drama is smaller in scale than "Lawrence of Arabia," but it's no less impactful on an emotional level. While "Eternals" may not reach such emotional heights, it's easy to see how "The English Patient" could serve as a narrative influence for the relationship-heavy Marvel epic, with Zhao and company keeping the characters grounded in humanity in spite of their otherworldly origins.